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| Spin of the Day

Raider 'Move' Put on Holden

January 22, 1998|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Even though every man, woman and child is undoubtedly ready to lay down their life to protect the motherland, there are so many highways, airports, bus terminals--my heavens, even boats--that lead into Los Angeles.

Is there really any way to keep the Raiders out if they want to come?

Make them have to qualify to play in the Super Bowl first--that will stop them cold.

The fact is, they aren't coming.

Why, you ask, has Councilman Nate Holden called a morning news conference? Channel 5 has learned from its very reliable sources that he will be the Raiders' new head coach.

Here's the deal: If you lived in Oakland, wouldn't you be trying to move to Los Angeles? Owner Al Davis, who can be accused of hearing the same voices that Holden apparently hears on occasion, received a huge chunk of money upfront from Oakland and obviously lost Irwindale's phone number.

Davis, who still maintains a condo in the Los Angeles area because you would too if you had to move to Oakland, has been telling people, including Holden, that he would like to come back to Los Angeles. He would also like to own a team good enough to make the playoffs, but the Packers aren't for sale.

Holden, who is competing with Mark Ridley-Thomas for headlines--Green Bay and Denver should be so competitive--has also talked to Davis about the Raiders' lawsuit against the league, which claims the Raiders' still own territorial rights to Los Angeles.

Then, in a complicated formula known only to Holden, he added one plus one and came up with the conclusion that the NFL is in no hurry to return to Los Angeles because it knows it cannot beat Davis in a court of law and because Davis wants to come back to Los Angeles, there's the making for a wonderful marriage--ah, remarriage.

Pat Lynch, the general manager of the Coliseum and the man charged with the task of booking the facility, was so moved by Holden's calculations and impending announcement that he made plans to leave town today and head to San Diego for the Super Bowl while it took place.

There was one report here, however, that suggested Davis had spoken with NFL President Neil Austrian recently and had told him that he was fed up with the situation in Oakland and was coming back to Los Angeles.

Said Austrian: "I haven't talked to Al since he filed his lawsuit."

Which one?

"From what I have been able to learn about this, Councilman Nate Holden is behind the whole thing and does not have the approval of anyone else in Los Angeles," Austrian said. "I spoke to the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Commission and it's a big surprise to them and they say they have a valid [14-year] contract with the Raiders.

"It's a lot of rubbish and rumor."

There is some thought that the NFL, in exchange for Davis' dropping all his lawsuits against the league, will be given the chance to move anywhere he wants without interference. Some insiders have gone so far as to suggest that NFL legal advisors have already made such overtures to Davis.

Fine, send him to Cleveland. Maybe the Silver & Black would have a better chance of winning if they were called the Browns.

This whole thing has more to do with Oakland than Los Angeles. Davis is peeved at Oakland because Oakland doesn't trust Davis--fill in your own smart-aleck remark here--and the city has filed a lawsuit demanding that Davis' team live up to all its bargains and not go anywhere else lest it be thinking about reneging on its deal.

Denver Coach Mike Shanahan, an expert on reneges and still waiting for Davis to pay him the $250,000 he owes him for his previous stint as Raider head coach, was unavailable for comment.

Ridley-Thomas--and you knew he had to weigh in on the matter if there were going to be any names mentioned in the paper--had his public relations outfit send out a "Statement of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Chair, Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Franchise" release.

"I have found no substantiation for reports which surfaced [Tuesday] that the Oakland Raiders may return to Los Angeles," Ridley-Thomas' epistle read. "On no occasion has Al Davis or the Raiders organization indicated an imminent return to the Los Angeles market. Therefore, I would advise observers and fans in Los Angeles not to get sucked into a runaway rumor mill."

Can there be anything worse than being sucked into a runaway rumor mill?

Davis did not return a phone call, but in talking with folks who talk with Davis, they said he would love to come back to Los Angeles, but he would go to Hollywood Park if he went anywhere, and if you think Mark Ridley-Thomas was fired up Wednesday, float that rumor by him today.

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